Food & drink: Fashionably late

Eating Out: While it's true that Cocoon may not be a first-generation, quick-off-the-blocks pan-Asian restaurant, it does deliver the goods in a gloriously groovy setting

Every now and then a restaurant comes along that astounds you with its originality and vision; that takes your breath away with its freshness, groundbreaking food, and brave forward-thinking. This is not one of those restaurants. This is the by-product of those restaurants, owing, as it does, a great deal to Zuma, Roka, Nobu, Hakkasan and Yauatcha.

Is this plagiarism or just fashion? In recent years London has been getting more and more New Yorked; installing a cool mix of pan-Asian restaurant concepts. It is not fusion food so much as cleaned-up, modernised interpretations of traditional cuisine, presented afresh for a new generation.

Cocoon, a series of spherical, low-ceilinged dining- rooms and bars in the old L'Odeon restaurant space on Regent Street, is the latest in the genre. You enter off Air Street, divest of coats, and head up a spiral staircase. True to form, there is nothing remotely Asian about the look or feel of the room apart from a slight reference in the Japanesey staff outfits.

More blatant than most about being pan-Asian, it coolly mixes sushi and sashimi with dim sum and wok-fries - not on the same platters, thank Buddha, but throughout the menu. Over two visits, I have sampled mainly dim sum and sushi, to good effect. Two spanking slim-line fingers of salmon nigiri (pounds 6 - ouch, pounds 3 each) appear on a handsome, blonde-wooden board practically gleaming with health and happiness, while two glistening fingers of blue-fin tuna sashimi (pounds 4.50) have such a sparkle and lustre they could have come straight from Asprey.

There is a lot of circus sushi as well, with which the chefs like to walk a tightrope and perform death- defying feats. Dragon sushi rolls (pounds 7.50) filled with salmon and wrapped in fine slices of avocado look pretty enough until the avocado peels off like a mummy's bandages. Soft-shell crab maki (pounds 8) might be called dynamite spider roll as it is at Zuma, but there, the similarity ends. The texture is plasticky, the flavour ditto. And I can't be convinced that blasting salmon and tuna sushi with a blow-torch is a good idea.

The mixed dim-sum basket is an understudy to the Hakkasan version. A collection of seafood dim sum (pounds 12), contains two very familiar-looking scallop-topped siu mai dabbed with wasabi tobiko (crunchy little flying- fish roe), two opalescent green chive dumplings, two loosely juicy crab dumplings and two immaculately formed har gau, steamed prawn dumplings. Flavours are sweet, fresh and lively, the pastry skins (so difficult to make correctly) are admirably fine, and the technique is viciously good.

Much money has been spent - witness the classy wine glasses, round tables of clear Perspex encasing faux rose petals, celebrity wine list, and swivelling hemispherical chairs. We do love a good swivel this year. Designer Stephane Dupoux has created pod-like rooms divided by Starck-inspired net curtains that allow only a shadowy Pyscho-like glimpse of the goings-on around you. Even so, it quickly becomes clear that some pods are more desirable than others. But which? This uncertainty creates such social paranoia that, in every room, people are desperately trying to be up-graded to another.

There is not so much atmosphere as noise, and it is so warm that I fear I shall hatch from chrysalis to beautiful butterfly before the end of the meal. The staff are sweet in a space cadet sort of way, with lots of dishes and bills brought to the wrong tables - although this could be because everyone is trading up.

Of other dishes tried, a spiky, spicy Szechuan hot and sour soup has been refined without being robbed of its nationality, and plump duck spring rolls (pounds 5) are better than most. A salad of seared rare beef (pounds 10) is very cute - small rolls of beef rolled around pickled cucumber hide under a cloud of small green leaves and a give-me-more spicy chutney dressing.

Desserts - date samosas with spicy chocolate mousse and matcha sauce, or carrot coconut cake with pistachio cream and mango lassi - are resistible.

At night, it's a Saudi crowd, talking Brazilian taxes - or was that waxes? - anyway, apparently only women under 30 should have them. By day, "express" lunch options are added, that are indeed speedy (45 minutes), generous and well priced (a dim-sum set is pounds 15).

It is a slightly strange place. It makes me feel tense rather than relaxed, perhaps because it is building on the strengths of others rather than building something of its own. The dim sum is very good, but not as mind- blowingly good as at Hakkasan and Yauatcha. The sushi is superior, but not as luminously fresh as at Zuma. The rooms are pretty, but don't have the karma of Sketch.

Yet while certainly derivative, I don't see Cocoon as being second-rate. It's more of a natural progression - absorbing influences, learning from the masters and running with them into a fashionable future. This is not such a bad thing. Fashion is often the name given to something that we didn't know we wanted until we saw it. Clever people then, make sure we get it, at all levels.

Score:14 Cocoon 65 Regent Street, London W1, tel: 020 7494 7600. Lunch daily. Dinner Monday to Saturday. Around pounds 110 for two including drinks and service

SCORES 1-9 STAY HOME AND COOK 10-11 NEEDS HELP 12 OK 13 PLEASANT ENOUGH 14 GOOD 15 VERY GOOD 16 CAPABLE OF GREATNESS 17 SPECIAL, CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK 18 HIGHLY HONOURABLE 19 UNIQUE AND MEMORABLE 20 AS GOOD AS IT GETS

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss